- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles Lakers began the game without four injured regulars, and lost a fifth in the second half. The Utah Jazz were merely without their coach and second-leading scorer.

In a game defined by who was missing, Gordon Hayward and the Jazz continued to assert themselves in the Western Conference.

Hayward scored 23 points and Utah overcame the absence of ill coach Quin Snyder for its sixth victory in seven games, 107-101 over the depleted Lakers on Monday night.

Rodney Hood scored 16 points and hit two difficult shots in the waning minutes to keep the Jazz on track to win their only road game in a nine-game stretch. They made up for the absence of George Hill with scoring balance: seven players managed at least nine points.

Veteran assistant Igor Kokoskov ran the Jazz for Snyder, who fell ill earlier in the day and decided he couldn’t coach shortly before game time. Utah’s bus also got stuck in traffic and arrived late at Staples Center.

“It’s difficult, but to be a pro, you have to be there and be prepared for your team,” Kokoskov said of his last-minute NBA head coaching debut. “The team needs you, and you have to step up. That’s what we ask from our guys, and that’s what you do as a coach.”

Players on both benches stepped into important roles.

Lou Williams had 38 points, six rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers, who rallied in the fourth quarter and nearly stole a victory despite finishing their eighth loss in 11 games without a large chunk of their roster.

Tarik Black sprained his right ankle in the third quarter and joined D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Jose Calderon and Larry Nance Jr. on the sidelines as Los Angeles lost its third straight while playing its ninth game in 14 days. Injuries and a brutal schedule have conspired to slow down the Lakers’ encouraging start under first-year coach Luke Walton, but Williams led another thrilling rally.

“It’s been tough, because we’re kind of short-handed right now,” said Jordan Clarkson, who scored 17 points. “It just shows we ain’t backing down from anybody, and we ain’t letting up. This time will pass and we’ll get back to winning games.”

Williams scored nine points early in the fourth quarter, and Julius Randle’s layup trimmed Utah’s lead to 98-95. But Hood nailed two tough shots during Utah’s ensuing 9-2 run to ice it.

“Quin is our leader, so it definitely was a different situation for us,” Hayward said after his eighth consecutive 20-point game. “I thought Coach Igor and the rest of the staff did a great job.”


Two nights after scoring 40 points in Memphis, Williams put together the first back-to-back 30-point games of his 12-year NBA career. He also became the first Lakers player to score at least 38 points in successive games since Kobe Bryant in March 2013.

“When we need him, he has stepped up on the court,” Walton said. “That gives other people a lot of confidence.”


Kokoskov got his first game in charge of an NBA team after a long career as an assistant with six franchises and as a head coach in Europe. The 44-year-old Serbian first arrived stateside in 1999 as an assistant to Snyder at Missouri.


With his top two point guards out, Walton came up with an unorthodox starting lineup due to injuries. Seldom-used veteran Metta World Peace joined a group with no players under 6-foot-7 as a counter to the Jazz’s big lineup. World Peace became the 11th player to start a game for the Lakers this season. The 37-year-old veteran hadn’t started since March 18, and he had appeared in just four of the Lakers’ previous 14 games.


Jazz: Kokoskov is the head coach of Slovenia’s national team in his spare time. He also spent seven years as Georgia’s head coach. … Hill missed his third straight game with a sprained left big toe.

Lakers: Calderon will be out at least two more weeks with a strained right hamstring. … Russell will be re-evaluated Tuesday to determine how much longer he will be sidelined by a sore knee. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in the joint two weeks ago.


Jazz: Host the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

Lakers: At the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

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